Sunday, August 27th, 2017 11:19 pm
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I noticed that one of my quarters has an image of Frederick Douglass on the back. It's a 2017 quarter, and I hadn't seen this design before. It used to be news when new currency designs came out; now it seems to happen without any fanfare at all. (Although, as I'm not able to keep up with the news, maybe it's just me.)

Curiously, the Frederick Douglass design isn't part of a series of important American people, but rather "America the Beautiful" - national parks and sites. This series has been going on since 2010, with 5 new designs each year. I have seen some of the others, but hadn't realized there were so many different designs.
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I had never heard about this before. The first piece on it which I read this evening left me thinking it must be a fake story. But unfortunately, like most things about human history, it's not fake.

Tulsa, 1921 - 1921 article by Walter White for The Nation

TULSA RACE RIOT - Oklahoma Historical Society

A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - a very detailed report from 2001, with photos, which I haven't had time to read.

Wikipedia article - Summary:
The Tulsa race riot, or Tulsa race riot of 1921, occurred between May 31–June 1, 1921, when a white mob started attacking residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in what is considered one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the history of the United States. The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district, at the time the wealthiest black community in the nation. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and more than 6,000 black residents were arrested and detained, many for several days. The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 39 dead, but the American Red Cross estimated 300, a number supported by historians since then.
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The Iko-Iko song played on my MP3 player in random mode, and I got curious about the lyrics again ("jshakomo finale..." etc.). I had looked them up in the past, and thought I had even posted something about them. But I didn't find said post... maybe whatever post I was thinking of was about some other song.

So I looked up the lyrics again. This is how the next half hour of my browser history goes, starting from the bottom. Is this how other people's web browsing goes?


That's without even yet searching on the 10 or more versions of the song mentioned on the first Wikipedia page, as I'm curious how they all sound.

There's a lot about world history and African religions that I'm not very familiar with. Things that I've maybe heard about a few times, but not enough to remember many details.


Below is an hour of my browser history from 10 days ago, when I looked up the protocols on the flag being flown at half mast, and progressed to reading about Mormons. That's another bit of history and religion I'm not very familiar with. Golden Plates!?! (Coincidentally, this week I heard a co-worker talking to someone else about his trip to Utah, and how he met with some Mormons and discussed their religion.)


Below was 2 hours back in March, when I looked up a reference someone had made to "Mrs. Prothero" in a comment, started reading about Dylan Thomas, and ended up fascinated by the idea of an actual real-life "War of the Golden Stool" (how Indiana Jones like!), including an African queen fighting against the British.

"Where is the Golden Stool? I am the representative of the Paramount Power. Why have you relegated me to this ordinary chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool for me to sit upon?"

Not understanding the significance of the stool, Hodgson clearly had no inkling of the storm his words would produce; the suggestion that he, a foreigner, should sit upon and defile the Golden Stool, the very embodiment of the Ashanti state, and very symbol of the Ashanti peoples, living, dead, and yet to be born, was far too insufferable for the crowd. Almost immediately, the queen mother of the Ejisu dominion within the Ashanti kingdom, Yaa Asantewaa, collected men to form a force with which to attack the British and retrieve the exiled king.

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It goes like this:

Last night:
Check TV guide to see what's on TV.
PBS is showing "1916 - The Irish Rebellion. The story of the Easter Rising rebellion...."
Do a search on something related to that. Irish Volunteers, etc.
Skim various pages.
Start wondering if the U2 song "Bloody Sunday" refers to the Easter Rising.
Do a search.
Oh. There are a whole bunch of Bloody Sundays.
One of them: Stanislawow Ghetto Bloody Sunday massacre, a massacre of 10,000 to 12,000 Jews before the Stanisławów Ghetto announcement.
Read about horrors.
Ghettos, concentration camps, mass killings, mass graves.
Click links; read about more horrors.

I never can wrap my mind around it. In a way, I don't want to. That's why I try to avoid the topic. But for my own sanity, I want to understand it. How could such things happen? How could people come to commit such atrocities? I'm terrified of it happening again. I'm terrified that it is happening, constantly around the world, in smaller versions. How can I be safe? How can I be sure that I'd never be involved in such a thing? What control do I have over the things my government is doing? Am I really any different from the average German civilian back then?

And it also puzzles me, in reading some things, as to why the victims didn't fight back more? Some parts I can understand. If soldiers come for you and your family with guns, yes, you're likely to do what they say rather than to be shot to death right there. Maybe going where they tell you to go, will let you survive in the end.

But I have a hard time understanding the mass shootings. Surely it can't be that 10,000 people would stand together in a crowd, letting themselves be shot to death, for hours on end, as some of those articles imply? Surely they would have surged forward against the shooters, knowing that death was imminent anyway? Were the shooters up on walls? Wouldn't piles of dead bodies would have gotten in the way of further shooting? Did the shooters take breaks so that the bodies could be moved out of the way? Were the Jews so starved and demoralized by that point, that they welcomed death? Who would want to remain living in a world like that?

And it wasn't only Jews being killed. There were mass killings of ethnic Poles too, by both the Nazis and the Soviets. And masses of people being deported to Soviet labor camps. How could mass killings be so common back then? How could people so callously disregard life? Was it a state of mind? That to have revolutions and change society, you need to kill the existing society that stands in your way?

The German side of my family came from the area right near Poland, so that's another reason I'm often drawn to reading about these kinds of things.

After over an hour of that, I managed to make myself to switch gears, and return to doing my taxes.


Read an email about local events.
One event is "South Carolina survivors and victims of the Holocaust".
Am reminded of that first page I read last night. I bring up the page again, and read it again. Again trying to wrap my mind around it. Yesterday wasn't the first time I'd read those kinds of things. But as many times as I read them, it seems I'll never be able to come to terms with them.

Clicked some other links related to the history of Germany before World War II. Republic, unification, Holy Roman Empire, Kingdoms, duchies... All of history seems to be full of wars and fighting and horrors. I've always hated history.

Here I sit, in my peaceful house, in front of my computer. Relatively clean, fed, clothed, and warm. Even if I'm not particularly enjoying life, it's not particularly bad.

But the world is full of horrors, and I'm quietly terrified that someday they will strike me personally, and this relatively peaceful world will be blown to bits.


Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 11:36 pm
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An uncle* of mine has written a book/memoir of his life:
The Kraut: On Being German after 1940

He was born in Germany, grew up in the U.K., and emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17.

I've been reading it during my lunch times, in between walking** and eating. Some of it is rather dark, topic-wise, and some of it is hard to follow. But it's quite interesting.

It's available on Kindle or as a paperback, if anyone is curious about it.

* My mom's half-sister's cousin's husband's first wife's son.

** I've increased my walking circuit by about 10 minutes. My pedometer indicates I'm now getting up to about 8000 steps per day doing so.
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I like the implication of the pronoun on this mailing.

"Our next president will face many challenges and difficult decisions. But they will also inherit our nation's proud legacy of helping those in need."


Sunday, February 15th, 2015 03:05 pm
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I've always known that the 1960s were a turbulent time with the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement going on. But I don't recall ever having heard before about the radical left-wing organization, the Weather Underground, and that they actually bombed places including the Pentagon. Reading about that, and about the Days of Rage riots, and about how Black Panther Fred Hampton was murdered by police, gives me more of a sense of just how unstable things must have felt back then.

I also find it interesting that to the best of my recall, my American History classes never mentioned the Haymarket Riot that happened in Chicago in 1886. I have much respect for the people back then who fought and struggled for labor rights and an 8-hour work day.

It also intrigued me that the leaflets from back then pictured on the Wikipedia page were written both in English and German. Even though I have German ancestry, I hadn't realized there was so much immigration from Germany to the U.S. even before the 1900s.
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It's so easy nowadays with the internet to look up information and to share information with others.

When I was a kid, if I wanted an answer to a question, I'd have to ask people, or look it up in the encyclopedia or dictionary that we had at home, or go to a library and search through books. But even if you did all that, the answer might not be found.

That isn't to say that I spent much time as a child searching the library for answers to hard questions.

But still. Even if you had a whole library of books, where would you look up the answer to a question like, "Why do my shoes squeak and creak, and how can I make them stop?"

Sometimes you can figure out answers by yourself. In the past, when my shoes squeaked, it was usually due to friction between the tongue and the top of the shoe, or due to small holes in the sole. I found ways to prevent those noises.

This time, the culprit was neither the tongues nor the soles. Internet searching provided some answers I hadn't thought of. The foam layers on one of the insoles* were coming apart. So I glued them back together with silicon sealer. That fixed one of the squeaks. I also sprinkled talcum** powder under the insoles, and after a few repetitions, that got rid of most of the creaks. One of the creaks kept coming back, which I now suspect was due to a thick thread that was under the insole, perhaps letting air in. I trimmed the thread. For the time being, the squeaks and creaks are all gone. Yay.

*I originally thought that insoles are glued in, but in many cases they aren't, and you can simply pull them out.
**Corn starch didn't sound like a good idea, as it might get pasty when wet. Nor did I want my shoes to smell like baby powder. Luckily, I found that non-baby-scented talcum powder can be found in the pharmacy foot-care section. The one I got smells like wintergreen!

Anyway, I was thinking about the above, and also thinking about what will happen to that kind of data over time. People die. Then what happens to the data they've posted to the internet? If they had their own website domain, and if no one takes over paying the domain fees or web hosting provider fees after they die, their website will be gone. If they've posted data on other sites, then it will depend on how long those sites stay around. Websites are not permanent, and most will disappear or radically change over time. Some data may get archived on various sites. But the Internet Archive, for instance, while it has old webpages, isn't very searchable in the normal sense. Google's cache is sometimes useful, but I'm not sure how long Google maintains cached data, once the original websites are gone.

So the answers that I can find today while doing an internet search, may someday no longer be there to be found. Or may no longer be found in the same places. New people will have to post the answers in new places.

Another useful piece of info I found today is that if your Lotus Notes locks up for a long time whenever you paste rich text from a webpage into an email, check the Lotus Notes proxy settings. Make sure it doesn't list an old proxy server which is no longer valid.
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Caught was my eye, by a curious ornament on a tree. Printed on it, "Four Colly Birds". A nearby ornament of the same make expressed "...Pipers Piping".

Mightily confused was I, by the "colly" birds. Surely "calling" birds, it's supposed to be... birds a-calling, like birds a-singing and a-tweeting, isn't it so? Or could all these years the lyrics I have misheard, of the days of twelve? Quickly to a web search, I tapped.

The great web of knowledge issued forth an answer. "Calling birds" an Americanization, it is. The "colly birds" to blackbirds originally did refer. Four black birds. Four black birds to be eaten! Three french hens, to be eaten! Seven swans, likely to be eaten! Five rings! FIVE GOLDEN RINGS! AAAHHH THE SACRILEGE!!! THE RINGS AREN'T EVEN RINGS! Ring-necked pheasants, to be EATEN!!!!

The holiday song innocuous no more!

And the partridge in the pear tree? Surely now one would expect the partridge and the pears all to be eaten in the great slaughterous carnage too, wouldn't we not? But nay! Christ and Athena, they are proclaimed to be!

Ah! Blessed relief! The great web of knowledge has issued forth an alternate answer. The five rings, still rings they be! Ah, mercy me! Perhaps the birds alive may be?

family history

Monday, May 27th, 2013 09:52 pm
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I've been going through some old letters of my mom's, while working on the family tree.

One of my German great-aunts was Catholic and very religious. In her letters, she often urged my mom to pray and to do the rosary, and things like that, as it was necessary for getting into heaven. Her version of Catholicism seems quite cult-like to me.

In one of her letters, she told my mom that she had asked a priest whom she was friends with to get in touch with my brother, who was in Munich at the time. The priest had invited my brother to come hear him speak. Apparently, my brother declined, and the aunt wrote to my mother that she had been horrified to find out that my brother belonged to the "Bakhwans" (he was a sannyasin of Bhagwan). She said that must be the worst sect/cult ever! In light of her own religiosity, that amused me.

But one very interesting thing I found was an account of how she fled the East with her family. Even though they were not Jewish, she wrote that at one point, Oskar Schindler helped them out:
"...wir fuhren nach Brünn/Brüsau zu Oskar Schindler, der ein großer Wohltäter an den jüdischen Familien war. Er hatte dort eine Fabrik und gab uns auf den Weg viele Ballen Stoffe mit, damit wir uns damit über Wasser halten konnten."

But I'm not quite sure how he helped them; I don't quite understand the meaning of the 2nd sentence. It sounds like he gave them bolts of cloth... Maybe they sold it for money? Or made clothes from it?

tim book two

Sunday, May 26th, 2013 01:21 am
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An article from 2003 which provides more info on the Timbuktu manuscripts:

Secrets of the Sahara

the ancient past

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 10:06 pm
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Going through some old checkbooks of mine, I came across various entries which I had jotted down as "Touchmatic". Apparently that's what my bank's ATMs were called back in 1990, even though I don't remember them being called that.

database of books

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 10:56 pm
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In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture

Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities.

The digital storehouse, which comprises words and short phrases as well as a year-by-year count of how often they appear, represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen. It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.

The intended audience is scholarly, but a simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time.
Google says the culturomics project raises no copyright issue because the books themselves, or even sections of them, cannot be read.

So far, Google has scanned more than 11 percent of the entire corpus of published books, about two trillion words.
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I find the "wealth" axis difficult to comprehend. It seems to me there are many factors to consider (inflation, different costs of living in different places, different currencies and exchange rates). I have an idea of the difference between $400 and $40,000 where I live, but not such a clear idea of what those numbers mean in other parts of the world, or a hundred years ago.
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Similar to the previous link I had posted...
Color photos from Russia in the early 1900's

It's oddly surprising to see that they had green grass back then too.
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Color photos of America from 1939-1943
Neat. Photos in color make the past seem more real and tangible to me than black & white ones do.

strange laws

Sunday, June 20th, 2010 11:05 pm
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Last Friday, after Qiao and me had been shooting some pool in a pool hall, Qiao commented that he had been disturbed to see a few children there. One had been a small child who was obviously only there because the parent was. Another few persons had looked to be of teenage years, and were shooting pool together.

My own first experiences with playing pool had been when I was a child, in vacation hotels and possibly in a few German restaurants. So it seemed an odd idea that there might be laws here in the U.S. against kids being in a place where pool/billiards was played.

Qiao said that most pool halls were like bars and served alcohol. The one we were in wasn't very bar-like, but apparently does have beer available. I can understand it if kids aren't allowed in bars, because a bar's main purpose is to sell alcohol, and kids are not allowed to have alcohol. But it still seems strange to ban kids from being in a pool hall, where the main purpose is pool, not alcohol. What is wrong with a kid playing pool? Unless perhaps, they are gambling, but in that case it should be the gambling that is disallowed, not the playing of pool.

Anyway, so I looked up what the laws are here in South Carolina, and found this:

SECTION 63-19-2420. Loitering in a billiard room.
It is unlawful for a person under eighteen years of age to loiter in a billiard or pocket billiard room or to play billiards or pocket billiards in a billiard room unless accompanied by the person's parent or guardian or with the written consent of the person's parent or guardian.

I *also* found this:

SECTION 63-19-2430. Playing pinball.
It is unlawful for a minor under the age of eighteen to play a pinball machine.

Eh?? In my growing-up experience, only *kids* played pinball! To me, pinball is a kids' game. But there's a SC law still on the books that forbids kids from playing pinball here.

So then I googled about that, and found this interesting old article from 1942. Apparently way back then, pinball games were a topic of dispute. San Diego even banned them entirely, after "a delegation of all the ministers of the city churches" paid a visit to the county council.

Juke boxes were a topic of dispute back then too. But apparently that was due to concerns that it would hurt musicians' livelihood.
"...union musicians [were barred] from making radio transcriptions, juke box records, and commercial recordings not for home use.
In the nationwide controversy that followed, union spokesmen argued their action was a case of self-preservation; the canned music actually tended to destroy the musicians' livelihood. Against this, radio spokesmen and others, including the government, contended that the ban resembled a monopoly and threatened to put many small radio stations and other businesses out of existence."

That entire periodical ("The Billboard - The World's Foremost Amusement Weekly") seems fascinating to me; to read about how things were like back in 1942.

This page lets you search SC laws and regulations.